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5 Search Engine Marketing Trends You Should Know In 2021

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Overview

For two decades, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has been the workhorse of digital media. It's a tactic that consistently drives traffic, leads and sales through modest ads and low-key (unsexy) strategies that put keywords in the center of everything. However, recent search trends point to some exciting new changes for SEM that go beyond keywords. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, a laser focus on customer intent, fresh high-quality content and sparkly new technologies for a search query like voice search are game changers when it comes to SEM. Google search is getting better (is it even possible?) at figuring out what searchers want using factors beyond what they type into the search field. Computer brains that understand language the way humans do are changing the way businesses approach SEM. These new trends are exciting and (dare we say) even sexy!
 
So, without further ado, let’s talk about the Search Engine Marketing Trends that are making headlines in 2021.
TechDogs-All Hail Lord Searchius Engenius!-"5 Search Engine Marketing Trends You Should Know In 2021"
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a $100 billion dollar industry with the organic (SEO -Search Engine Optimization) side of the market reaching over $47.5 billion in 2020 and the paid search (or PPC – Pay Per Click) side, just under $60 billion. Phew, that’s a lot of cha-ching!  As far as digital marketing tactics go, SEM isn’t exactly sexy. It didn’t used to be, anyway.

Once upon a time SEM revolved around the almighty keyword, like a moth to a flame. Keywords, On-page Optimization and backlinks formed the beacon that drove your SEM strategy. However, now, there’s much more to SEM than keywords and backlinks. Site and page speed, mobile friendliness/ usability and content freshness all factor into how Google analytics ranks your paid ads and organic listings. Each one of these factors is like its own separate beacon, collectively contributing to how visible you are in search engines (or not).

On top of this, search has gone high tech (well, even more high tech). From Artificial Intelligence (AI) to voice to data, search marketing is going through a digital transformation renaissance and we’re here for it! Below, we list some of the new, exciting (and sexy) SEM trends for 2021.
 

Trend 1: Search Is Becoming Less Transparent


TechDogs-Trend 1: "Search" Is Becoming Less Transparent-2D Image Of People Using Search Box For Query, Engine Giving Result
Once upon a time, search marketers had a very particular set of skills. Namely, they were good at identifying the most profitable keywords to target, they obsessively monitored search engine algorithm changes and most of them had some level of web programming knowledge. Unfortunately, modern search isn’t quite as transparent as it once was.

In September 2020, Google announced it would show less search term data to paying advertisers, meaning some advertisers won’t be able to see what queries triggered their ads. This makes it difficult to pinpoint what terms are the most profitable. Google cites privacy concerns for the reason behind the change. This is part of a larger trend around consumer privacy that includes the loss of tracking cookies (the Safari and Firefox browsers are already blocking cookies by default and Google has begun phasing them out in Chrome). This change puts the impetus on brands and companies to use first-party data like purchase history, phone calls and customer interactions.

TechDogs’ Opinion: It’s time for Search marketers to walk in Professor Xavier’s shoes and become mind readers. Well, that’s one way to do it. Another is to focus on better communication with your customers and begin to build a first-party data strategy to help you map the complete customer journey (and segment customers appropriately). You’ll also need to be better at using the data you still have on your high-performing keywords to unearth patterns in search behavior. For example, you can use your paid search campaigns to better formulate your organic SEO and content strategies.
 

Trend 2: Keywords Matter More Than Ever But So Does Content


TechDogs-Trend 2: "Keywords" Matter More Than Ever But So Does "Content"-2D Meme Of Star Wars Character Yoda-Asking Evveryone Step Up Your Gaming Content
More than half of the searches on Google don’t result in a click. These are aptly called “zero-click searches” and what this means is that Google’s sending less traffic your way in lieu of keeping more people on Google.com. 

Zero-click searches occur because Google’s showing more content directly on the search results pages. Now you can get the weather, flight information, your local Best Buy’s business hours and much more directly within the hallowed halls of Google’s own domain.
 
What can Weather.com do to combat the above phenomenon? They can buy paid search ads.  They can constantly tweak their SEO approach to compliment (and keep up with) Google’s changing algorithm. Easier said than done, we know. They can also create content that their users really want to consume.

TechDogs’ Opinion: Getting listed on the first page of Google is so difficult, you are practically a lengend once you have achieved this feat. When you add zero-click searches to the mix, it almost feels futile. However, don’t despair. We predict that companies will continue to do expansive keyword research since targeting the right keywords matters now more than ever. Businesses will invest in SEO strategies like improving Core Web Vitals (a fun metric Google rolled out last May which focuses on page speed) to improve organic positioning. They’ll also create content specifically to appear in the zero-click search results that Google shows on its page 1 results (this is likely what Weather.com did). You’ll see companies continue to step up their content game using these smart insights because creating relevant, high quality content works as the ranking factor long-tail terms, keeps your website fresh and means you’re better able to connect with consumers.
 

Trend 3: Artificial Intelligence And Automation Will Rule Search (And Everything Else)


TechDogs-Trend 3: "Artificial Intelligence And Automation" Will Rule Search (And Everything Else)-2D Image Relating To AI-Powered Marketing Tools-Artificial Intelligence
Look, we know what you’re thinking—not AI and automation again! However, the fact is there’s no corner of the digital marketing megaverse that hasn’t been touched by automation and AI, often in tandem. Search is no exception. Google’s algorithm prefers updated, personalized content because that’s what people click on. Trying to produce this content without automated tools is an uphill battle. Content optimization tools like Frase, a tool that optimizes your website’s content so that it’s more visible for voice search, are the future of search.

TechDogs Opinion: Tools, tools, tools! We’ll all be using more tools to create relevant (keyword rich) content, optimize that content, personalize it and deliver it to consumers based on first-party data that analyzes user behavior, transactional data and interactions across multiple channels. Tools like customer data platforms, customer experience software and Digital Asset Management Platforms help businesses create more relevant, targeted organic and paid content. This might not sound like a search marketing strategy but don’t let that fool you. Good content is what ranks well on Google, period. (mic drop)
 

Trend 4: Search Finds Its Voice


TechDogs-Trend 4: Search Finds Its "Voice"-Screen Shot Of Google's Voice Search And Google Assitant- Say "Ok Google" To Search Using One's Voice
Almost 30% of the entire population is using voice search on their phones and half of smartphone users are using voice search technology for a range of reasons from asking for directions to playing music to checking the time. Your search marketing strategy—paid and organic—must incorporate this change in behavior because it’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, speaking is greatly preferred over typing, with 71% of consumers preferring to ask a question rather than type it. Also consider that smart speaker and smart home device ownership is continuing to grow in the US, with 66% of US households expected to own a smart speaker versus just 0.8% in 2015.

TechDogs-"Voice Search"-Meme Of American Rapper "Cardi B" Using Google Voice Search
TechDogs’ Opinion: Voice queries are different from typed queries. They tend to be longer, more specific and indicative of users who are further along in their decision-making process than traditional text-based queries. We predict that advertisers will have distinct voice-search optimization strategies that target conversational queries instead of keywords. It’s “What is the weather in New York” versus “Weather NY” and “Who played Iron Man in the original 2008 movie” versus “Iron Man actor.” Optimizing for voice can pay off (big time) since Q&A queries tend to rank better than keyword queries alone. Is this Samantha in making? From the movie Her, of course. Only time will tell.
 

Trend 5: Businesses Will Explore Paid Ad Campaigns


TechDogs-Trend 5: Businesses Will Explore "Paid Ad Campaigns"-2D Image Of Influencer Marketers, Blogging, Advertising On Social Media Networks Concept With Tiny Character's Of People With Megaphone Promoting Product Or Service On Video Channel
Millions of people migrated online when the pandemic hit - for working, shopping and dating. Even the number of active users across social media platforms skyrocketed in 2020. Instagram currently has over a billion monthly active users (up from 500 million in 2019). TikTok, where 60% of users belong to Gen-Z, has roughly 650 million monthly active users (up from 500 million in 2019). Social media usage is expected to increase significantly in 2021 too and digital marketer would be amiss not to use social media platforms for paid advertising.

You might remember Digiorno's Twitter campaign in 2019 where they delivered free pizzas to anyone who tweeted #DeliveryDigiorno? Or the more recent #DistanceDance social campaign by Proctor and Gamble on TikTok? Top athletes and celebrities joined the #DistanceDance campaign and it collected 8 billion views – in a week! That's the power of paid social advertising and brands will jump on this bandwagon sooner, if not later in 2021.

Paid social media ads are also relatively cheaper than other digital ad formats. Besides, you could serve customized ads on different platforms - from Facebook to TikTok to Reddit - depending on where your target audience is most active. According to Blue Corona, a digital marketing firm, around 90% of marketers state that social media marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business and 75% say it has increased inbound traffic. 

TechDogs' Opinion: The most significant SEM trend that will emerge from paid social ad campaigns is that marketing teams will place lesser emphasis on metrics and instead focus on learning more about their consumers' social media behavior. As social media platforms begin integrating retail features (think Facebook Shops), 2021 will bring excellent opportunities to invest in paid social strategies. 
 

Conclusion


Search engine marketing is one of the oldest forms of digital marketing. It may not be as sexy as a flashy video ad or a simulated VR co-branded experience but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cool. In fact, Google’s self-proclaimed goal is to become the Star Trek supercomputer of the future. By understanding the latest search marketing trends, you can create a more effective paid and organic search strategy. You will win at search. You will win at life. You will win at showing up when someone asks Siri where they can get a slice of vegan pizza at 1 a.m. on a Sunday (assuming you sell vegan pizza).

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